Policies and Procedures
Adopted by Circuit Professionalism Committee by unanimous vote on May 21, 2014, subject to approval of the Chief Judge
PREAMBLE: The First Circuit Professionalism Committee was established in response to an Order of the Florida Supreme Court for each Circuit to constitute a professionalism committee. The Chair of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee is appointed by the Chief Judge of the First Circuit. The Chair appoints the members of the Committee. The purpose of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee is to promote and encourage professional behavior by the lawyers practicing in the First Circuit. This is accomplished through education, social events, CLE, and any other means deemed appropriate by the Committee. Pursuant to its charge, the Chief Judge of the First Circuit has assigned to the Committee the task of developing and implementing the following professionalism grievance policies and procedures.
1. Purpose of the Policies and Procedures
Pursuant to the Order of the Florida Supreme Court, “In Re: Code for Resolving Professionalism Complaints,” Case No. SC13-688, Fla. S. Ct., June 6, 2013, each Circuit must devise a plan for resolving disputes where a person believes a lawyer has acted in a manner less than the high standards of professionalism expected of lawyers in the First Circuit.
These procedures do NOT apply to complaints by lawyers about judges. Complaints about judges are to be directed either to the Administrative Judge for the County, the Chief Judge of the Circuit, and/or the Florida Judicial Qualifications Committee.
It is the goal of these policies and procedures to provide an effective, yet informal, procedure to resolve disagreements over the professionalism of lawyer behavior.
2. Make-up of the Panels
a. There shall be two Panels, each appointed by the Chair of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee. One Panel shall consist of persons from Escambia or Santa Rosa Counties, and shall be designated Local Professionalism Panel West (“LPP-W”). One Panel shall consist of persons from Okaloosa or Walton Counties, and shall be designated Local Professionalism Panel East (“LPP-E”).
b. Each Panel shall have a chair, plus four members selected from the First Circuit Professionalism Committee.
c. The terms of the members of the two Panels shall be set at the discretion of the Chair of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee.
3. Procedure for initiating a complaint
a. Any person may file a confidential complaint by mail to the First Judicial Circuit Trial Court Administrator, 5th Floor, M.C. Blanchard Judicial Center, 190 Governmental Center, Pensacola, FL 32501. The outside of the envelope shall state the following in bold letters: CONFIDENTIAL DOCUMENT FOR CIRCUIT PROFESSIONALISM PANEL. The outside of the document shall also state in bold letters either: LPP-EAST or LPP-WEST, depending on which Panel is to receive the claim.
i. Claims concerning attorneys in Okaloosa or Walton Counties shall be designated LPP-EAST.
ii. Claims concerning attorneys in Escambia or Santa Rosa Counties shall be designated LPP-WEST.
b. A form for such complaints is attached as Attachment 1 to these Policies and Procedures. The form may be changed at the discretion of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee.
c. The First Judicial Circuit Trial Court Administrator shall forward the envelope, unopened, to the chair of the appropriate Panel.
d. The Chair of the Panel shall refer the complaint to a member of the Panel by random selection to investigate and mediate the complaint, and report the results to the Panel. If unable to initiate the investigation within five (5) business days, the investigating member shall refer the matter back to the Chair of the Panel who shall assign a different member at random.
i. If, within ten (10) days after receipt of the complaint, the Chair determines investigation by the Panel would be inappropriate, the Chair of the Panel may appoint a Special Investigating Member from outside the LPP to investigate and mediate on behalf of the Panel. The Special Investigating Member may thereupon take whatever steps he/she deems necessary and appropriate.
e. The Investigating Member or the Special Investigating Member shall provide a copy of the complaint to the attorney.
4. Investigation, resolution and appeal
a. Within ten (10) days of receipt of an assignment by the Chair, the attorney assigned to investigate the claim shall communicate with the complaining party and the attorney(s) involved and determine if any further action is appropriate. The investigating attorney has the discretion to help the parties meet a mutually agreeable resolution of the dispute.
b. If within thirty (30) days of the assignment from the Chair, the investigating attorney and the parties cannot resolve the dispute, the investigating attorney shall report, in writing (or e-mail) to the Chair of the Panel.
c. Within thirty (30) days of receipt by the Chair of a report that the investigating attorney and the parties are unable to resolve the dispute, the Chair of the Panel shall call a meeting of the Panel (the Panel can meet in person, telephonically or through e-mail) to consider the report of the investigating attorney and determine what action, if any, may be appropriate. Within twenty (20) days of a meeting of the Panel to find a resolution of an unresolved dispute, the Panel shall issue a report and recommendation to the party(s) involved in the dispute.
d. Within ten (10) days from receipt of the report and recommendation by the Panel, if either the complaining party or the party complained against is not satisfied with the resolution of the Panel, they may appeal to the entire First Circuit Professionalism Committee by filing a written objection with the Chair of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee.
e. The First Circuit Professionalism Committee shall have thirty (30) days to consider the appeal.
f. If the appeal still is not resolved after thirty (30) days, the parties shall be referred to The Florida Bar Attorney Consumer Assistance and Intake Program (“ACAP”).
g. If a party believes a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar has occurred, the matter shall be referred to The Florida Bar Discipline system for the filing of a grievance.
h. If, at any time, the investigating member, the special investigating member, the Panel, or the Committee is of the belief that the matter involves a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, they are required by the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar to file a report with The Florida Bar.
i. If, at any point in the process, a matter is referred to ACAP or as a grievance to The Florida Bar for a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar, the Committee, Panel, and investigating member are to close the file and end the Professionalism Committee process.
5. CONFIDENTIALITY OF ALL PROCEEDINGS
a. All proceedings pursuant to these procedures shall remain confidential. They may be shared only with members of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee, the Special Investigating Member if one is appointed, the complaining party and the attorney against whom a complaint is filed.
b. When an investigation is closed, all records shall be sent to the Chair of the First Circuit Professionalism Committee, who shall maintain the records for 36 months from receipt. At the expiration of the 36 months, the records shall be destroyed.
Form For Reporting a Complaint
Form Individual Reporting
Code for Resolving Professionalism Complaints
Policies and Procedures